Our Human Value
Samsara, Nirvana, and Buddha Nature
Volume 3, Library of Wisdom and Compassion
by His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama and Ven. Thubten Chodron
In describing his own spiritual journey before attaining awakening, the Buddha said (MN 26.13):
Before my awakening, while I was still only an unawakened bodhisatta, I too, being myself subject to birth, sought what was also subject to birth. Being myself subject to aging, sickness, death, sorrow, and defilement, I sought what was also subject to aging, sickness, death, sorrow, and defilement.
Then I considered, thus: “Why, being myself subject to birth, do I seek what is also subject to birth? Why, being myself subject to aging, sickness, death, sorrow, and defilement, do I seek what is also subject to aging, sickness, death, sorrow, and defilement? Suppose . . . I seek the unborn supreme security from bondage, nibbāna. Suppose . . . I seek the unaging, unailing, deathless, sorrowless, and undefiled supreme security from bondage, nibbāna.”
We may mistakenly believe that Dharma practitioners must relinquish all of the usual activities that bring them happiness and instead practice extreme asceticism and self-denial. We may fear that there is no happiness to be experienced until we reach nirvāṇa. This is not the case at all.
In fact, it is important to have a happy mind while practicing the Dharma. As we go deeper into practice, we realize that there are many types and levels of happiness and pleasure. Having food, shelter, clothing, medicine, and friends bring us some well-being—enough that we can practice the Dharma without being in dire suffering, which would make practice difficult.
As we practice more, we discover the internal peace arising from living ethically and the pleasant, relaxed feeling that comes from improving our concentration. As we lessen our attachment and open our hearts to others, the joy derived from connecting with others on a heart level and acting with kindness toward them brings us a sense of fulfillment that is greatly superior to any sense pleasure that money and possessions can afford.